What can I expect from therapy?

If you have ever suggested that a friend see a therapist, only to have him look shocked and never bring up his personal life again, you may have bumped up against the often unspoken stigma about counseling.

Many of us have no idea what therapy really means before we first enter the counseling room, beyond the sometimes skewed images presented on the news or in movies. We might fear the process entirely or expect that the counselor will act as fortune-teller, neither of which leads to an authentic therapeutic experience! Becoming familiar with the counseling process can help you find the right sort of approach, demystify the practice, and set reasonable expectations.

How I work with individuals

Counseling is a unique experience for every client. Together, we will map a treatment plan that matches your own goals and expectations. For some, this may include a deeper understanding of how past events inform present-day thinking. For others, it may be more about strategizing ways to approach a specific problem in the here-and-now. Most of us could use a quiet, safe space to unpack our baggage and decide what's important to keep, and what we can leave behind. While I often follow guidelines set forth by my training in Adlerian psychotherapy, Imago Relationship therapy, and Motivational Interviewing, I also am fairly eclectic and collaborative so as to make sure we find a path to wholeness that suits your own personality.

A different sort of relationship

For treatment to truly work, you and your therapist will create a connected alliance that is different from those with friends and family. I often recommend Carl Sherman's book, "How to Go to Therapy," to people as they research their options. Sherman explains that the therapeutic alliance must take place within boundaries that separate it from the rest of a person's life. He offers the following points to help define this unusual relationship:

  • Separate Lives: “Ideally, your therapist is not someone you deal with socially, professionally, or in a business capacity….Generally, therapists stay out of your life – they won’t attend your wedding or join you in business ventures.”
  • Confidentiality: “Therapists are expected to expend considerable effort in maintaining the confidentiality of what transpires in the therapy room.” Maintaining confidentiality ranges from the appropriate disposal of session records to the refusal to confirm or deny to a third party that a client is in therapy.
  • Time: “The duration of each session should be clear (the ‘therapy hour’ is generally forty-five to fifty minutes), along with the matter of fees, manner of payment, and policy on missed sessions.”
  • Identifying Goals: “Among the dimensions of the therapy process you might want to establish at the outset are: What do you hope to accomplish in therapy? What is the treatment plan? How long will it take? How precisely these questions are answered will vary enormously, depending on the kind of therapy and the circumstances under which it is taking place….The therapist may propose an outline of what he expects to happen, but new goals are likely to emerge as therapy proceeds, and estimates of time are subject to constant revision. One question you have every right to pose, however is ‘How soon might I expect to feel better?’”